The 82-year-old actor — who died on Dec. 8 — supported son Patrick O'Neal in his career as a sports anchor
The actor — who died on Friday at age 82 — supported his son Patrick, 56, in his career as a TV sportscaster, which synced with his own love of sports and early beginnings as a professional boxer.
Patrick, who announced his father's death on Friday, described the late actor as his “biggest fan” as he spoke of their lifelong connection to sports earlier this year.
“He’s my best friend. I love him and my dad is my biggest fan,” Patrick told L.A. Downtown News in July.
“Hearing him tell me how proud he is of me for my work doing play-by-play for the [Los Angeles] Angels is really special to me. I made my dad proud…my dad always gives me his full support.”
Related: Ryan O'Neal's Life in Photos
Ryan’s love for sport predated his acting career as he started out as a professional boxer in the 1950s. He had some success, winning 18 out of 22 fights including 13 knockouts, reported the outlet, before switching to acting in 1960.
Patrick began his career following in the footsteps of his father as an actor, which he admitted “for sure helped me get an agent and auditions,” landing minor roles in such films as Die Hard 2 (1990) and Pacific Blue (2000) but he always kept a close eye on the world of sports.
“I always had a love for sports and when I watched games I would always focus a lot on the broadcasters,” Patrick said on the Tennis Channel Inside-In podcast in August.
"I loved Sports Center and ESPN when it first broke, in ‘83, ‘84, ‘85…I kind of worshipped those guys that anchored Sports Center," he added.
After failing to bag a part in the 2001’s Band of Brothers, Patrick had an “epiphany” to make a career change as a sports anchor and secured his first role on Fox Sports Radio in 2000, he told Tennis Channel's Inside-In podcast.
He has since covered significant wins from the Lakers, Los Angeles Angels and Kings and he was the first to interview Kobe Bryant after the late NBA legend scored 81 points in 2006 — all proud achievements witnessed by his late father.
“It’s amazing. I’m thunderstruck. He’s turned me into a real Angels fan, and he’s very good at his job,” Ryan told L.A. Downtown News in July.
In turn, Patrick supported his father in his acting career and in his later achievements, including celebrating the veteran’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a proud moment for them both.
“I’m pumped we got him his deserved Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where he will live for generations to see,” Patrick told the outlet.
However, when asked about looking back on his storied career, Ryan was adamant he was living in the present.
“I haven’t started to reflect yet,” he explained at the time. “But when I do, you’ll be the first to know.”
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On Friday, Patrick announced in a post on Instagram that his father Ryan "passed away peacefully."
"So this is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to say but here we go. My dad passed away peacefully today, with his loving team by his side supporting him and loving him as he would us," his post began. "This is very difficult for my wife Summer and I, but I will share some feelings to give you an idea of how great a man he is."
He continued, "My father Ryan O’Neal has always been my hero. I looked up to him and he was always bigger than life. When I was born in 1967 my dad was already a TV star on Peyton Place. That’s where he met my mom Leigh Taylor-Young, and about 9 months later (give or take a date night or two) I was born. My dad became an international movie star with Love Story at the beginning of the 1970’s, a decade he absolutely crushed by starring in movies like What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Barry Lyndon, A Bridge Too Far, The Main Event, and The Driver."
The tribute then noted his father's legendary status in the world of showbusiness, detailing more of his achievements.
"He is a Hollywood legend. Full stop. The growth spurt of the first name Ryan can be traced back to my dad. That’s a fact. He was Rodney Harrington on Peyton Place 3 days a week (he starred in 500 shows over 5 years) and then of course the name Ryan peaked after Love Story (the film that saved Paramount Studios and earned my dad a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame)," Patrick concluded his post.
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